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Social Security going green

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/21/AR2010042104780.html

The above link will take you to an article that was in the Washington Post on April 22, 2010.  It is something the folks receiving Social Security should be aware of.  While the article indicates primarily new recipients will be receiving their benefits electronically, it is something that I suspect that everyone will be effected by eventually.

“The Treasury Department is making a big push to go green — and save a lot of green — by switching millions of people who receive Social Security and other federal benefits from paper checks to electronic payments.” – Washington Post April 22, 2010

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Follow up … Do I laugh or Cry?!?!

I know the post “Do I laugh or do I cry” was pretty charged and in many ways could amount to more of a rant rather then anything overly constructive with the exception of the idea that others can see copies of scanned documents I received I have to say there is a lot wrong with that particular post despite being based on the information I had at the time I wrote it.

Some thingsa I feel I need to clear up…

In the other post I said something about hoping that our state government doesn’t vote for a raise for themselves in light of the cost of living decrease they handed to folks on SSI.  In light of being in contact with a state representative, it is my understanding that the legislatures did NOT get an increase in their income this last time.

I also feel like I need to clarify that I personally don’t expect an increase in my Social Security benefits every year, and do understand that the economy hasn’t been too good in recent times.  I would have been mopre accepting if I had been told that my benefits would be frozen at their current amount until the economy improves, as opposed to having them decreased.  I don’t know numbers or anything to back this up, but I suspect there are others out there who hoped for an increase, but would have been understanding if they were told there wouldn’t be an increase and that benefit amounts were frozen.

For me personally, I think the thing that frustrated me the most, is that I was told by Social Security I qualified for “X” amount of dollars in benefits, and then to have the State decide to decrease that amount, despite the fact that I hadn’t had any changes such as a job, birth of a child, marriage, divorse or any of the other things that can effect my benefits, I felt like I was being told yes I qualify for a certain amount, but the state wasn’t going to hold up their end of what on some level has the appearance of a contract based on my qualifications for the benefits.  My understanding had been that as long as I met the qualifications, and I reported any changes in regards to other income or  things like marriages, divorce, birth whatever, I would be receiving a certain ammount that wouldn’t decrease unless something on my end changed.  that is pretty much how Social Security portrays the benefits to people receiving them, I never once was told that my benefits could go down because of decisions made by my state or federal government.  In light of this, I would like to ask that Social Security at both the state and federal levels, better inform those receiving Social Security benefits that it is possible for the government to decrease benefit amounts without notice, based on what the government feels is best rather then them looking to see what the actual impact could be beyond the actual budget they are working on.  With something like Social Security, politicians and the general public need to realize that while it looks like just numbers on paper, behind every single number on that paper, is a life that will be impacted in some way by the decisions made about the numbers.  For folks who live below the poverty level, a change of $5 can be huge in terms of being able to meet basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and for those who do try to work or are even in the process of going to college in an attempt to better themselves and gain skills that might make them more employable, the $5 decrease that PA State Government decided on, could mean the difference between being able to have money to pay for tranportation to get to class or work, so while I keep hearing about programs like “Ticket to work” or “Welfare to work” personally I find that decisions such as the one made by the PA state government to decrease benefits is pretty much counter productive for those trying to make an effort.  We are told we can keep our helth coverage for “X” amopunt of time while we work even if we don’t qualify for Social Security, but then if we don’t have the skills to get a job where the employer offers health insurance comparable to what we had, it puts us in a position where we have to choose between paying rent or paying for healthcare, and many will choose things like food, rent, transportation, and clothing over medication if put in that position.  For folks with mental health disabilities, putting us in a position like that can result in us not getting the medication we need to remain stable enough to continue to work, and result in us having to quit working and go back on Social Security or other benefits just so we can once again stabilize our disabling mental health issues.  For someone with a severe and disabling mental illness, it can take several years for them to stabilize enough to where they are able to return to work, but then they are risking putting themself back into a situation where they once again have to choose pretty much between sanity and insanity because of a high potential for not having access to health care coverage to prevent having to choose between medication and a basic necesity like food, clothing or shelter.  It’s a viscious circle and I know based on experience that there are people out ther who believe that if everyone on social security or welfare simply “got a job” everything would be better, but I have to ask these people are they saying it would be better for the individual being told to get a job?  or would it be better for the person making or implying such statements who obviously have no clue what life with a disability of any kind is like.  For me personally to be able to work I would need a guarantee that I would have adaquate health care coverage that was compareable to my current coverage with coverage for my mental health treatment being treated equal to the treatment avaiable to someone with a medical condition such as diabetes, which I have been told for years that for me, taking my meds is as important as insulin is to a diabetic, but yet I’m told that unlike the diabetic, if I’m working, heath insurance isn’t required to give me the same coverage for my medications and other vital treatment as a diabetic would be entitled to with the same health care coverage.

No, I don’t have a degree that I can say backs up anything I’m expressing, but I can say I have life experience that has taught me that because my disability is a mental health disability, I’m better off not working then I am to attempt to work.  Society through their policies has taught me that, but given a chance to work at a job that was friendly to my mental health disability and provided me with insurance compareable to what I have now, I would make an honest effort to try to work at least part-time.  Until I find that combination, I will do what I can to give back to society through my limited freelance writing, and other odd jobs I sometimes do mostly on a volunteer basis, just so I can feel like I’m making an effort to be productive in some way regardless of the views held by those who would claim I’m freeloading.

So while this may be in some ways, yet another rant, I hope that people will be more aware of the viscious circle that folks like me end up in because of society’s view of us and the fact that I believe that many, not all, but many politicians forget that there are lives that will be impacticted by changes made to the numbers they are juggling when balancing budgets.  I feel that special interest typ projects that by design will only impact an individual community, such as funding for stadiums for example should be where cuts should be made, not because stauims don’t serve a purpose, but because people can live without a stadium, they can’t live without food.

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“Budget cuts victimize the disabled”

This article excerpt found in the January 26, 2010 Philly Daily News and can be read in full at this address …. http://www.philly.com/dailynews/opinion/20100126_Budget_cuts_victimize_the_disabled.html

“If $5 and $10 cuts don’t seem like much, consider this: People who are “totally and permanently disabled” – physically unable to work at all – get no more than about $700 a month in federal SSI payments, and many get less. (That’s at least $2,430 lower than the federal poverty line of $10,830 a year for an individual.) In that world, $5 means a lot – the copay on necessary drugs, for example, or the last few dollars for the electric bill or the rent.”

“Editorial: SSI cuts are a cruel plan”

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/83227462.html

This article came from the Philadelphia Enquirer on February 1, 2010

I loved this article in more  ways then many can imagine, it is about PA’s cost of living decrease as I’ve started calling it. (oh and I broke my new rule about not including the complete article on this one, it said a lot in it’s short length.

Editorial: SSI cuts are a cruel plan

As of this week, several hundred thousand elderly poor and disabled Pennsylvanians will be nickel-and-dimed to help balance the state’s $28 billion budget.That’s wrong, and all the more unconscionable given a state budget that benefited fat cats while resorting to an expansion of casino gambling to raise revenue.

In reaching their months-late budget deal in October, Harrisburg lawmakers and Gov. Rendell necessarily nipped and tucked state spending in hundreds of other ways.

That’s not a bad thing. But the process went off the rails when it came to a decision to cut the state’s modest monthly supplement provided to nearly 350,000 poor and disabled receiving federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks.

The aggregate savings from the cuts of $9.4 million this year and $22.9 million next year represent a pittance in overall state spending. But the monthly reductions of $5 to $10 will come from SSI recipients already trying to live on only $700 – more than 20 percent below the poverty level.

To some of the disabled – including nearly 130,000 people in Philadelphia and four surrounding counties – the SSI reductions could represent the cost of a prescription co-pay, or a transit fare to the doctor’s or grocery store. But it’s as much the harsh message the state is sending with these cuts that’s so objectionable.

Remember how lawmakers and Rendell spared natural-gas drillers from paying a new extraction tax? That levy is being collected in many of the other states where the Marcellus Shale is being tapped.

How about the decision to saddle the state with another expansion of casino gambling to raise $200 million a year? Those state winnings represent a hidden tax on many people who can least afford it.

With such skewed priorities in place, the SSI cuts appear cruel and unnecessary. Although the cutbacks are set to start today, they should be rescinded as soon as possible.

Wouldn’t you just know, the SSI reductions only came to light recently. But now that the secret is out, there’s an understandable clamor growing from advocates and some lawmakers to remedy this insult to the elderly poor and disabled.

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Effect of the state budget on social services

This is a link to an article found on Philly.com that discusses the effect of the state budget on social services here in Pennsylvania ….

The article is dated … Friday, August 21, 2009

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20090821_Budget_stalemate_devastating_social-service_providers.html?referrer=facebook

Safelink – Free cell phone

Before you write this off as a scam, it isn’t, I looked into it for myself and learned it is indeed a free program available to most people who qualify for food stamps or have an income of less than $26,000 per year.  The program is through a joint effort of the federal government and Tracfone.  They offer a free cell phone and free airtime each month.  If you should need more airtime then what they offer, you can buy more minutes to add to your phone by purchasing Tracfone cards.  depending on which plan you choose, unused minutes will rollover into the next month so if you don’t use all your time you won’t lose any minutes you don’t use, they will be added to the next month.

The downfall is that while it is available in Pennsylvania, it isn’t available in all parts of Pennsylvania.  I live in a rural area and it isn’t available in my area yet, but they plan on expanding the program over time.

If you think you might qualify or want mor information here’s how to get it …

Call: 1-800-Safelink (1-800-723-3546)

Visit: The Safelink website
(https://www.safelinkwireless.com/EnrollmentPublic/home.aspx)

** Note: Post updated on 8/29/2012 due to a nasty typo on my part, many thanks to the reader who brought the phone number issue to my attention!  My most sincere apologies to anyone who dialed the number on this post prior to the date of the update **

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